Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Time for Talking is Over

After a week of talking, the time for action is upon us. No more talk of hate or of history, just the teams who will take to the field at Twickenham. On paper the difference between them is slim and on the day it could be the little differences that separate them.

In the first two games Wales' kicking was looser than the morals of the cast of 'The Valleys' and if they continue that way they will be punished. England fullback Mike Brown rarely fails to make ground and Johnny May has the ability to steal tries from the smallest of opportunities. 

The Welsh kick chase will need to be near perfect especially as tired legs start to kick in. Forget penalties, freekicks or sin bins, that is a real test of a player's discipline especially as the fuel tank empties.

Meanwhile, Johnnie Sexton showed England how to play the kicking game against Wales; kick to corners, pin Wales back and turn them around. They gobbled up the territory like a fat man in a pie shop and sapped Wales' energy. It also tied up the Welsh backrow in the tight channels and made them much less effective.

That's very important to England because they don't like to commit men to rucks. They play fast, clear out quickly and get the ball away. They rarely commit more than two or three to a breakdown which maximises their strike runners around the ruck. 

However, it also leaves them exposed to the counter ruck and jackal. Against Ireland, even when the ball was slowed down, they didn't commit extra forwards and that allowed Ireland to force the turnover. If Lydiate and Warburton can rekindle that almost telepathic link of years gone by, as they started to against France, they may get some results at the breakdown.
Turnovers are a rich source of tries and so is the set piece. Make no doubt about it, the platform for Wales' victory over England last year was built upon the scrum. Adam Jones tore through England's scrum with ease and raised questions about England's apparently domineering pack. In turn Graham Rowntree asked questions of referee Steve Walsh, but it was clear that Wales were better on the day.

Fast forward 12 months and things may be very different. Wales' favourite Hair Bear has struggled to cope with the change of engagement process and some still question the scrummaging ability of Gethin Jenkins. Meanwhile, England find themselves without their two best scrummagers in Corbisiero and Coles, that left them on the wrong end of a one sided affair against the Irish scrum. It could be a lottery at Twickenham, but if either team can get on top at the scrum, it could decide the winner. 
Elsewhere, England will put pressure on Wales' lineout which is liable to malfunction (something Courtney Lawes will relish). Wales have also lost human skyscraper Luke Charteris, but have plenty of line out options so need to secure their own ball and defend well against England's rolling maul. Wales have a weakness in the defence of the maul and a good organised English pack could punish them there if they work together and communicate.

In fact England's best chance is to forget individuals anywhere on the park; the only way to beat Wales is with a collective performance. Their defensive line has to be quick and organised and they have to make the first up tackles. Roberts, Davies, Cuthbert and North will all be wanting a chance to prise open the line of white shirts like a corned beef tin and the Welsh backrow wouldn't mind a go either. If England miss a tackle, or even over commit to cover, Wales will punish them.

But, for now, the talking stops. No more press conferences, an end to interviews, sound bites cease. 

It's time for a little less conversation and a little more action please.
A Little Less Conversation - Elvis vs JXL

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